188.8.131.52: Some Principles of Public Law
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- Explain the difference between private law and public law.
- Define statutory law and give examples of statutory laws at various governmental levels.
- Explain externalities and show why taxation is used as a means of addressing them.
- Discuss the idea of market failure and the principle of efficiency as a foundation of law.
- Define administrative law and discuss the role of federal administrative agencies in making and enforcing administrative laws.
- Define case law and explain the concepts of precedent and judicial review.
Both tort law and contract law fall into the larger domain of private law, which deals with private relationships among individuals and organizations. In addition, of course, there are numerous types of law that deal with the relationship of government to private individuals and other private entities, including businesses. This is the area of public law, which falls into three general categories (Kubasek, 2009):
- Criminal law, which we’ve already introduced, prohibits and punishes wrongful conduct.
- Constitutional law concerns the laws and basic legal principles set forth by the U.S. Constitution.
- Administrative law refers to statutes and regulations related to the activities of certain legal bodies known as administrative agencies. We’ll have more to say about administrative agencies and administrative law later in the chapter.
Public law obviously has a major impact on the activities of both individuals and businesses in the United States, and in the following section, we’ll discuss the nature of this impact and the reasons why so many private activities are subject to the rules and principles of public law. Like most areas of the law, public law is an extremely complex field of study, and to keep things manageable we’re going to explore this field by focusing on three less-than-glamorous legal issues: why cigarette littering is against the law, why cigarettes cost so much, and why businesses ban smoking in the workplace.